Greece is facing no confidence vote on Macedonia name deal
● Dispute has roused nationalist sentiments in both countries
The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia faced political storms at home yesterday – two days after reaching a historic deal to settle a decadesold dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Greece’s Alexis Tsipras faces a vote of no-confidence in his government, while Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev is contending with the refusal of the country’s president to sign off on the deal if it’s approved by parliament.
Mr Zaev and Mr Tsipras have agreed that the former Yugoslav republic should be renamed North Macedonia, ending a disagreement that had prevented it from join- ing international institutions such as Nato and had poisoned bilateral relations since the early 1990s.
But the dispute has roused strong nationalist sentiment in both countries. Critics on both sides of the border were furious, accusing their respective prime ministers of conceding too much.
Greece has long demanded that its northern neighbor change its name, saying the term “Macedonia” implies territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name – the birthplace of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great – and usurps ancient Greek heritage and history.
Opponents in Greece object to any use of the term “Macedonia” in their northern neighbour’s name.
Critics in Macedonia, meanwhile, see any modification of the country’s name as a threat to their national identity.
In Athens, Mr Tsipras faced a direct challenge to his leftled coalition government’s survival after main opposition New Democracy submitted a motion yesterday for a no confidence vote.
“I have an obligation before the Greek people to try to avert the mortgaging of our country’s future with an agreement that is detrimental to our national interests,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
Mr Tsipras has a four-seat majority in the 300-member parliament, but the name deal has led to a rift within the government itself. The stance of defence minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the coalition’s junior partner, the rightwing Independent Greeks party, will be crucial.
Mr Kammenos said before the deal was announced that he would oppose the agreement in a parliamentary vote, which would leave Mr Tsipras dependent on support from political opponents to ratify it in parliament. The debate on the motion began yesterday evening, and a vote is expected by Saturday afternoon at the latest.
Meanwhile in Macedonia, Mr Zaev was faced with a refusal by the country’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, to sign off on the deal if it is ratified by parliament. Such a refusal would delay implementation of the deal, which is expected to be signed this weekend.
If the president refuses to sign, the deal would return to parliament for another vote.
Up to 1,500 people held a peaceful protest against the deal outside parliament in the Macedonian capital of Skopje on Wednesday, chanting “Traitors!” and blowing whistles. Greek opponents of the deal planned a protest in Athens on Friday, when Mr Tsipras had been due to brief parliament on the name deal.
0 People protest against Macedonia’s proposed name change